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Study: safety systems could prevent 40 percent of rear-end 18-wheeler crashes

When a tractor-trailer slams into the back of a passenger car, the results can be horrific for occupants of the smaller vehicle. After all, in North Carolina 18-wheelers are allowed to weigh up to 80,000 pounds. Serious injuries and fatalities are all too common in rear-end tractor-trailer crashes.

A new study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) offers hope that 40 percent of rear-end 18-wheeler crashes could be prevented by equipping the big rigs with safety features such as forward collision warnings and automatic emergency braking.

Eric Teoh, IIHS director of statistical services, conducted the study. “Rear-end crashes with trucks and other vehicles happen a lot, often with horrible consequences,” Teoh said, adding that the safety features will function as “an important countermeasure to that.”

The IIHS said some truck fleet operators are adding automatic emergency braking features to their big rigs on their own, but the research group urged the federal government to require the inclusion of both safety systems on all new large trucks.

The IIHS study found that rear-end collisions were reduced 44 percent in trucks with forward collision warning systems, while rear crashes were cut 41 percent in trucks equipped with automatic emergency braking.

Commercial truck crash data from 2017 to 2019 from 62 trucking companies was analyzed for the study. The companies all use tractor-trailers or other big rigs that weigh at least 33,000 pounds.

The IIHS says U.S. large-truck crashes have increased by nearly one-third since 2009. In 2018, more than 4,100 people died in the violent collisions – 119 of the deaths were in tractor-trailer rear-end crashes.

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